This next installment of the Future of Real Estate series on Union Street Media’s YouTube channel features Jessica Averbuch, CEO and owner of Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty, the greater Nashville area’s premier real estate firm and a leader in international luxury real estate. Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty was founded in 1979 by the pioneering Shirley Zeitlin, who was, among other things, the first woman president of the Tennessee Association of Realtors® (TAR). Averbuch and Zeitlin, who still serves as chair of the company, have grown the company significantly under their leadership, and Averbuch has more recently led several major initiatives including spearheading the expansion of the Zeitlin Charitable Fund. Click the button above to watch the full interview.

Like many who excel in real estate, Jessica Averbuch never planned to run a leading real estate brokerage. In fact, she was on an academic track, attending grad school and loving living in Austin during the tech boom of the 90s, before she ever considered real estate. “I actually studied primates and primate behavior,” Averbuch recalls, before deciding it wasn’t a realistic profession for her and becoming intrigued by her first home purchase. “When we went through that transaction it just really piqued our interest,” says Averbuch, adding “there were things about it we would have done differently.”

Averbuch and her husband had found their calling, which ironically, had been right in front of them all along. “We realized we should go to Nashville where we have the best mentors you could ever have in this business,” Averbuch reflects. Averbuch’s husband is the nephew of Shirley Zeitlin, founder of Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty. “She is a truly iconic trailblazer as a female in business and in real estate. So I came to work for her in 2001,” Averbuch says. 

Averbuch credits much of her success to having Zeitlin as a mentor. “It does not matter what challenges come her way,” Averbuch says, adding “she sees the opportunities.” “Shirley was a female business leader at a time when there were almost none — she just never saw that as a barrier.”

“We really focus on the relationship and on providing value. And we feel like if we do that, the money will come in and we can be successful.”

—Jessica Averbuch

When the pandemic hit, Averbuch embraced change. “I just think you have to respond to it right because if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you know you’re gonna be in trouble,” she explains, adding “especially in an industry like ours.” Under Averbuch’s leadership, the Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty team took advantage of the pandemic and “rolled out so much” to improve their technology and grow their network, including a new back office system, new accounting system, new website, and more. They also adopted a program that allows for online deposits and started new ventures. 

Averbuch loves doing and learning new things, citing being “ready to do something different than what I thought I was going to do” as one of the main reasons she first got into real estate and a driver of her success. “We all have a lot of different sides to us,” says Averbuch, which fascinates her. That said, she acknowledges that not everyone is as comfortable with change nor is it easy to make time to learn something new. She spends a lot of time mentoring and helping others, which she views as essential. “I think a lot of [our success] is just training and getting our agents comfortable with it, providing staff support and you can’t just roll something out once,” she says, adding “you have to continuously provide opportunities to learn because our agents are unbelievably busy.” 

Averbuch also relies heavily on data to evaluate how the company is doing. She says that they look at “every metric under the sun” noting that one of the most important things to keep track of is your budget. For Averbuch, avoiding “fluff expenses” is just as important as tracking revenue. 

In addition to managing through change, embracing mentorship of others, leveraging data, and adhering to a budget, Averbuch advises others who are looking to start their own firm to be curious and to reach out to those who are successful in the business. As for herself, Averbuch isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. “I know that things will change, but I also know that so many things have stayed the same,” says Averbuch, adding “and so it’s just sticking to the core values and at the same time continuing to grow and learn” that drives her. “You know,” Averbuch reflects, “there’s so much you can learn from listening to conversations.” 

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